Already experiencing a surge in launches, Florida’s Space Coast could become even busier with the additional of polar orbit launches.
The Air Force has opened a “polar corridor” that would allow certain rockets to launch spacecraft from Cape Canaveral into north-south orbits circling the poles, a development that could bring more launches to Florida.
Polar launches historically have been flown from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s Central Coast, where a small number of missions each year fly south over the Pacific Ocean toward Antarctica.
Cape launches most often head east to send satellites on their way around the equator. Polar trajectories have been avoided since a 1960 Navy launch inadvertently dropped a Thor rocket stage on Cuba, reportedly killing a cow.
But now, says Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing, “We can shoot south.”
No near-term missions plan to use the new polar corridor, but over time it could lead to more Cape launches and consolidation of the nation’s launch infrastructure.
This change would not be very good news to Vandenberg or the Pacific Space Complex — Alaska, which both host polar orbit launches.
America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.
The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.
The nuclear missile threat posed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has proven to be a lifeline to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and its little used Kodiak launch facilities.
Twice during the past month, the U.S. Army launched Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptors from the The Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak. The tests were done under an $80.4 million contract with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The contract helped revive the struggling agency, which suffered serious damage to its launch facilities in 2014 after a U.S. Army rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. The state-run corporation is eyeing the booming small-satellite market.
One commercial contract that is signed and scheduled for December is with a new space company that cannot now be identified, Campbell said.
Vector Space Systems, an Arizona-based company formerly known as Garvey Spacecraft, has also signed with Alaska Aerospace for test flights of its new Nanosat Launch Vehicle, the Vector-R, in 2018.
A contract that still in negotiation for launches planned in 2018 and 2019, is with Rocket Lab USA, a California-based company that has been in the space business for several years.
Rocket Lab now wants to use Kodiak for launches of its new “Electron” rocket, Campbell said.
Another company in discussions for launches in 2019 is Zero Point Frontiers, based in Alabama, for its 55-foot Xbow Launch Vehicle that will launch small satellites to orbit.
KODIAK, AK. (AAC PR) — On Saturday, August 13th, Alaska Aerospace Corporation and the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) commemorating completion of the rebuilding of damaged facilities caused by the launch failure in August 2014.
There was some good news last week for the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), which has struggled to find users for the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced that it would award AAC a contract to support flight tests for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) at the spaceport. The contract has a five-year base with a single one-year option.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AAC PR) – Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) achieved an important milestone in their collaborative venture to path-find operations for a commercial nanosat launch vehicle at AAC’s Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSC-A) on Kodiak Island. Just one month after starting, the team worked through the logistics to enable GSC to ship a prototype first stage and then successfully demonstrate on-site fuel loading into the vehicle.
Anchorage, AK (AAC PR) – Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) has announced its selection of Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s Pacific Spaceport Complex–Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island as host range for the next phase of the company’s Nanosat Launch Vehicle (NLV) flight test program.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AAC PR) — The Kodiak Launch Complex is no longer, in name at least. Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), a premier aerospace company that owns and operates the non-Federal Kodiak Launch Complex, announces that it is renaming the facility “Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska” (PSCA) to reflect the growing capability of AAC to meet customer requirements and its broader aerospace commitment to the Pacific region.